Can friendship be something like a mirage? An investigation points to “yes”.
Friendship is one of the most important elements in most people’s lives, but at the same time, it is something very difficult to quantify.
This is so, among other things, because as it happens in couple relationships, friendship is not something that you can possess yourself, but a relationship dynamic that involves more than one person. And this is what makes it often unclear whether the degree of intensity that we attribute to that relationship is close to the way in which the other person perceives this affective bond.
When friendship is mere imposture …
But, since humans are animals and intelligent, we are sure that we are very good at assessing whether our friends consider us friends … right?
Well, a recent study published in PLOS ONE suggests that about half of our friendships may be unrequited. That is to say, in one case out of two, the person we believe to be our friend does not see us as a relevant friendship, which could cause them to be considered false friends or, simply, people whose courtesy is taken by a true attachment.
How was the investigation carried out?
As a sample group to carry out this research, a group of 84 people with ages ranging from 23 to 38 years was used. The purpose of the study was to see to what extent the relational dynamics of a community of people affect the time of persuading its members, creating currents of opinion, etc. However, one of the things that attracted the most attention was related to another topic.
In order to have data with which to work, the researchers asked them to rate from 5 to 5 the degree in which they considered other people friends or friends, with 1 being the option “is a stranger” and 5 “best friend / to”. In addition, each individual had to rate, also on a 5-point scale, the degree to which they believed the other person considered them friend or friend.
In general, the vast majority of participants were optimistic when it came to assessing how reciprocated they were in their friendly relationships. In 94% of the cases, people used the same number to quantify the degree of friendship they felt and the degree to which they believed that the other person corresponded to them. In other words, there was a clear tendency to believe that the relationships were symmetrical and bidirectional.
Judging by the data obtained, this optimism was based rather on an illusion. In 47% of the cases, the scores obtained were not the same.
Fake friends? What are your dark motivations?
There are many ways to interpret these results. One of them is simply to believe that the conclusions reached through this investigation do not correspond to reality. Ultimately, this is just one study, and errors may have occurred in the sampling, design, or analysis of the data. In addition, it is still true that this could occur only in certain cultures or populations, and not in all the inhabitants of the planet. To find out this would require more research.
Another way to take it is to believe that the results of this study are a reflection of what really happens in our relationships. It could be that human beings are exceptionally bad at distinguishing between true friends (who belong to us) and others who only act in a similar way as a friend would.
But there is also another possible explanation: that these conclusions show the consequences of having many non-antagonistic personal relationships. In other words, in a time when it is common to have 400 contacts on Facebook, many of whom congratulate us on our birthday without hardly knowing us, it is becoming increasingly difficult to know who is totally spontaneously friendly and who only acts like that out of courtesy. .
After all, in a culture in which image matters more and more, posture and appearances can also encompass what was once our network of relationships based on honesty and affection.